The Ashton

Lancaster, Northern England, United Kingdom Book from £130

A superbly stylish stopover in the oft-overlooked town of Lancaster, near the Lakes and the M6 motorway
An unusual place in an unlikely location. If the inside of this handsome Georgian house looks like the set of "Lost in Austen" (with a dash of 21st-century flair), it’s no coincidence: owner James was the set decorator on the ITV period drama. Theatrical this hotel certainly is, with dramatic colour schemes, beautiful lighting and top-notch bathrooms and bedlinen. Enjoy the house party atmosphere and original art in the candlelit lobby and dining room, or retreat upstairs to your room and revel in space and luxury. While the house is old (1834 to be precise), furnishings are strictly contemporary, with clean lines and sensuous silks and suedes, and the odd antique chair judiciously thrown in for fun.

As well being as the artistic talent behind this gem, James is the perfect host, a great cook and ever attentive to the details that make this a really special place. Swathed in 3/4 acre of grounds, the Ashton feels both isolated and ideally located: 5 minutes from the centre of Lancaster, great countryside and the M6. The perfect stopover.

Highs

  • Easy access to the M6 makes it a convenient stopover between London and Scotland; business people love it, but it’s also a great base to explore the Lake District and the Forest of Bowland
  • Despite its proximity to road and town, it is quiet and peaceful
  • The small touches, like homemade biscuits and fresh flowers in the rooms, make this owner-run boutique hotel stand out a mile from the big chains
  • James and his team will go above and beyond to ensure you unwind and relax

Lows

  • It's not really for children - but if you’re here for business or a romantic getaway, that may be no bad thing
  • The colour schemes of some rooms may not be to everyone's taste, but we found the dark greys and greens quite seductive
  • Given the attention to detail lavished on everything else, and if we're being really picky, the breakfast orange juice could be freshly squeezed (but there are some fab hot dishes)

Best time to go

Any time of year is nice – you’re here more for the décor and the ambience than the views (although they’re lovely), and there's plenty to do nearby in the colder months. In the spring and summer the surrounding countryside comes alive.

Our top tips

Bring walking boots to explore the surrounding countryside, and an OS map. And a waterproof coat is a must!

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 5
  • Breakfast + dinner by arrangement
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Dramatic, huge and utterly comfortable: it’s hard to fault the 5 rooms that are spread over the hotels 3 floors. Colours are bold but natural - think moss, slate and silt - giving the rooms a cocoon-like feel, and beds have a sensuous mix of materials from silk bedspreads to suede bedheads and immaculately starched duvet and pillow covers. James admits that chairs are his obsession and funky chairs he’s unearthed over the years have been refurbished with fabrics that inject youthful colour and panache into the rooms. Look out for the quaint "conversation chair" in the vast Attic room, one of our favourites. The 3 Grand rooms are larger than the 2 Classics, but the latter are just as sumptuous and have views over the garden.

But it’s the bathrooms that take the prize. Tiled in black porcelain, with underfloor heating, no expense has been spared to achieve a look that’s downright upmarket. Classy REN toiletries and whiter than white bathrobes complete the picture. Choose the bathroom that suits your needs: the ground floor room, Chocolate, has both a shower and a roll top bath; while Plum upstairs, has a double shower. Some have no door between bedrooms and bathroom/loo, so if this is a problem ask for a room where bedroom and bathroom are clearly separated.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Radio
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast, served 8.00-10.00 am, includes the usual buffet of cereals and fruit juices (sadly not freshly squeezed), and a special daily dish - when we visited it was poached pears with blueberries, yoghurt and toasted almonds. There’s an imaginative choice of hot dishes - we had Port of Lancaster Smokehouse’s smoked salmon, with scrambled egg, though it was a close run choice with the pancakes with maple syrup and dry cured bacon. If you go for the works, the bacon and sausages, both from the butchers in Milnthorpe, are superb.

Supper is available on request Monday to Thursday. James whips up meals based on the number of guests eating and their tastes. It’s the food he cooks for his family, so expect top notch simple food. You get a main course which could be anything from soy glazed salmon to chicken pie, accompanied by home baked bread, a salad or a side dish and followed by dessert and coffee. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday a platter of locally sourced meat, fish and cheeses with salad, chutneys and home baked bread can be arranged - all you have to do is ask!

If you want to venture out to eat in the evening, James has a good list of recommended places. Top of the list is a French bistro in town called Quite Simply French, followed by Bistro 26. If you’re after rural gastronomy, head for The Highwayman Inn at Burrow, near Kirkby Lonsdale. Try the Morecambe Bay brown shrimps. And wash them down with glass of Lancaster Blonde, the local beer.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: Lancaster Museum

Activities

  • Lancaster is rich in culture and history: visit the Judges Lodgings Museum, a 17th century townhouse which was once home to witch hunter Thomas Covell, and now a museum of antiques, including Gillow furniture. The Maritime Museum in Custom House on St Georges Quay gives an interesting account of the port and of Morecambe’s fishy past, including 4 restored fishing vessels complete with sounds and smells.

  • Walk in the park: Williamson Park, created out of a former quarry by Lord Williamson in the 19th century, is just up the hill. His son, linoleum millionaire Lord Ashton, built the large green-roofed folly - the Ashton Memorial - that you can see from bedrooms in the front. Lancaster’s answer to the Taj Mahal was built in 1906, and on a fine day from its viewing gallery you can see right across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland fells. Great homemade cakes in the café too

  • Hiking. Turn right out of the hotel and you are in the lovely Lune valley, drive south and you get to the Forest of Bowland. Alternatively the Lakeland fells are only half an hour’s drive north. James can also book you a place on guided walks at Morecambe Bay

  • Shopping. Great independent shops and art galleries in Lancaster itself. Or Kirkby Londsale, 15 minutes’ drive away, has a fantastic selection of small boutique shops and delis, including Churchmouse Cheeses

  • Cycling. Lancaster has an extensive network of cycling routes, including one that runs all along the seafront. Or take to the hills just outside the door of the hotel. The Forest of Bowland is great for cycling too. James can arrange bike hire

  • Fishing. Great fishing spots in the Forest of Bowland, or there’s sea fishing at Morecambe Bay

  • Golf. The top place is Lancaster Golf Club, with great views over the estuary. Heysham comes a close second

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

This isn't really a hotel for children, but you are welcome to bring them. There are no cots or high chairs, but an extra bed can be put in the Attic Room for one child up to the age of 14 years. After that they require their own room, so a stay here would work out quite pricey. There is no specific children's menu, but they can be catered for with advance notice.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for The Ashton